7 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 9 - Summer 2015

  • Text
  • Festival
  • Jazz
  • August
  • Toronto
  • Quartet
  • Musical
  • Concerts
  • Trio
  • Violin
  • Flute
  • Summers

...On breaking down

...On breaking down musical (theatre) walls: DM: We’re doing a little bit of jazz at the festival and we’re doing the quintessential American operatic form, which is the musical. WN: Which work is that? DM: It’s The Last Five Years, by Jason Robert Brown, and it’s a fantastic piece. It’s only two people, it’s a couple that meets, falls in love, gets married and breaks up, all in five years. It’s told from the beginning by the man and from the end by the woman; they only meet in the middle at their wedding and that’s the only time they sing together. It’s very clever. Aaron Sheppard is one of the new tenors in the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, and he does musical theatre. He and his girlfriend Vanessa Oude-Reimerink have been singing this musical together for the last three years, so they know the piece really well. I’m hoping that through these various connections we can actually bring our opera audience in to think about the musical on a different level. To take it more seriously rather than turning up their noses at a musical, to really think, okay well wait a second, there’s something very interesting happening in this art form, when it’s done well, performed well. For that matter, there’s a lot of opera that is fluff; you wouldn’t want to take a lot of opera seriously either. WN: There’s a sense of breaking down walls with traditional audiences of either kind of genre. DM: The walls are certainly being broken down. Even at the Glimmerglass Festival they did Annie Get Your Gun. And I think more and more we’re going to see opera companies and opera schools incorporating these works which have been around for basically 100 years now. ...On bringing in the star performers: WN: Have you got some performers coming in this year who you’ve been chasing since year one or two or three, and you can say, “now I’ve got it, now this is the theme where I can bring them in”? DM: Yes. Karita Matilla. But actually, Karita Matilla has nothing to do with the theme. I’ve been after her for three years. This is the year it happened. WN: Not even for the encore? DM: No, the diva sings what she wants to sing. The same thing with Garrick Ohlsson. He’s one of my favourite pianists...when I was a youngster the first year I joined the Quebec Symphony as principal viola, my first real job out of school, he came and played Prokofiev Third with the orchestra and I’ll never forget that. He’s been one of those guys who I’ve always admired. Well, he’s doing Beethoven and Scriabin. Can’t do anything about that either. But this is the 100th anniversary of Scriabin and that’s his project for this year. That’s always the way. The festival theme is there and I try to tie as much as I can in, but it’s inevitable. It’s inevitable on some levels. ...And on getting geared up for a little unprofessional music-making: DM: The other big news for this summer is our new amateur Community Academy. What I’m really loving is the way that musicians are buying into it too...we’ve really hit a chord. James Anagnoson’s piano class is oversold already. We just need a few more voices for the choir and we need a few more string players. WN: And you’re going to do a breakfast choir? DM: Absolutely. Everybody will be participating – including the staff, though they don’t know this yet. Everybody’s got to be there. Matthias [Maute] is the conductor, and Laura [Pudwell] will be doing coaching and masterclasses. Everybody all together in the morning, and have a coffee and a croissant or whatever, and then from 10 o’clock everybody goes into their particular program, but there’s this one moment where everyone gets together and just makes music. Sounds like a worthy idea – and sounds like a subject to bookmark for our next discussion. Until then, thanks to McNabney and to his colleagues – and here’s to those moments that will make Toronto’s upcoming summer a musical one. Five Festival Fingerprints SARA CONSTANT The summer music festival can be a bit of a mystifying concept. At just the time of year when you would expect most concert performers to pack up their instrument cases and head to the cottage, there is, across the country, a sudden eruption of summer music-making branded as “festival season” – a phenomenon often put together by people who work throughout the year and around the clock to make it happen. And yet, despite all the similarities (weekend getaways, specially-themed concert series, multi-arts celebrations and educational initiatives), you’d be hard-pressed to find two festivals in any given summer that appear to be cut from the same cloth. So what exactly is a summer music festival, and, apart from the fact that it’s in the summer, what are some of the factors that give each its unique fingerprint – keeping audiences and organizers alike coming back for more? Make no mistake – increasingly, music festivals are more than just blips on the regular musical calendar. These summer events have a particular capacity for going above and beyond the constraints of the average concert series, offering up an experience that is not only carefully curated but musically unique. And who better than some of the people who do that curating to talk about the unique characteristics of the festivals they shepherd into being? Panamania: As Toronto counts down to the summer’s Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, Don Shipley has been hard at work as the Games’ creative director of arts and culture, spearheading the accompanying cultural event christened Panamania. And with over 250 performances and exhibitions featuring music, theatre, dance, art and fashion between July 10 and August 15, it’s safe to say that Panamania has been keeping him busy. Says Shipley: “For me it’s been a wonderful journey because it was part of my own discovery too, digging into the music of the Americas, unearthing not only what is best from these countries, but sometimes their best kept secrets. I think quite honestly that the marquee names people will know, but the real discoveries sitting at one of our three venues are those artists they won’t already know.” Those names include, among hundreds of artists and musicians, such performers as the Flaming Lips, Jann Arden, Blind Boys of Alabama, Calle 13, Bomba Estéreo and Lila Downs, as well as the YOA Orchestra of the Americas – a special youth orchestra project that will bring together orchestral musicians aged 18 to 30 from across the Americas. In even this single festival alone, there will be no shortage of musical celebration in Toronto over the coming summer. “It’s that whole sense of large public engagement. It’s really about that whole shared experience,” Shipley explains. “People by nature just love large gatherings. They love to be together, they love that communal experience – and I think what we’ve got here is not only a legacy of introducing great music, but it’s also about that big gathering of people coming together to celebrate.” Music at Port Milford: The gathering of people for a musical and celebratory purpose can of course take many different forms. While Panamania, as a one-time-only whirlwind, blows through Toronto, outside the city Music at Port Milford breezes into Prince Edward County, as it has done every summer for 28 years. Music at Port Milford is a strikingly different kind of summer festival experience. A chamber music festival and summer camp program running this year from July 12 to August 9 for ages 12 to 18, it is founded on the importance of community. “My original vision 28 years ago was to bring students together in a family-like atmosphere and really make the program a more holistic experience,” says Meg Hill, who co-founded the camp on her family farm and now acts as the program’s director. “We don’t just have teachers coming in and giving classes, the same people who are coaching you are also playing chess with you, and playing Bananagrams with you, and eating spaghetti with you – so it’s very family-like in that sense.” 12 | June | July | August, 2015

Stratford Summer Music artistic producer John Miller For Hill, seeing the first moments of that family coming together are part of what makes organizing the festival worthwhile. “I look forward to and get excited for the first day of each session. We have students coming from really all over, from Mexico City to Alberta, and even though it’s only about 40 kids they all come from such different places. It’s really exciting to see the first meal, just to see all of these people coming in from all over the place and figure out how we’re going to create a community,” she recalls. “The students also all sing together, even though they’re not singers – the first night after our first meal, they’re in the barn and they’re singing together – and I’m somewhere out in the field listening, and that’s a wonderful moment that I look forward to every year.” Stratford Summer Music: For those willing to venture to venues beyond the GTA like Prince Edward County, this summer promises no shortage of unique concertgoing opportunities. In addition to the output of educational programs like Music at Port Milford, a number of the province’s now-staple summer festivals not only consistently have exciting performers and programs on their rosters, but have a consistent feel to their programming, reflective of the individual running the show. Less than a two-hour drive from Toronto in Stratford, Ontario, Stratford Summer Music’s artistic producer John Miller has put together an eclectic mix of concerts to commemorate their 15th anniversary year, among them tributes at dawn and dusk to the music of R. Murray Schafer, brunch shows featuring violinists culled from Tafelmusik, Ben Heppner in recital with the Blind Boys of Alabama and a “Classical Tattoo” featuring over 200 young orchestral players from the YOA Orchestra of the Americas (mentioned previously by Don Shipley), the National Youth Orchestra and l’Orchestre de la francophonie. Running this year from July 20 to August 30, the festival’s offerings are well worth the day trip. continues on page 36 June | July | August, 2015 | 13

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